x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Baseball: No incentive for sides bound for the play-offs

Neither the Boston Red Sox players nor the New York Yankees will care all that much about the game as, eventually, one team will win the American League East and the other will take the wild card spot.

In addition to featuring one of the game's best and longest rivalries, the weekend series between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees seemed to be a key series for both teams.

"Seemed" being the operative word.

Because, really, even though the three-game set began with the teams tied with the same record and would help set the tone for the final eight weeks of the season, it did nothing of the sort, thanks to the play-off format.

Even though nearly a third of the season remains, it is obvious that the Red Sox as well as the Yanks are heading to the play-offs. Thus, for the Yankees and Red Sox, the final 50 or so games will be largely anticlimactic.

One team will win the American League East and the other will take the wild card spot.

And here is baseball's dirty little secret: the teams do not care who win what.

Sure, for bragging rights, either team would prefer to win the division and gain home-field advantage in the first two rounds.

But as we have seen, home-field advantage does not guarantee anything in baseball.

Wild card teams have won numerous World Series. All that matters is getting in.

That may change next season when baseball could expand with another wild card team in both leagues, meaning that division winners would get a first-round bye.

But for now, there is not enough incentive for two play-off-bound teams to fight for seeding.